BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY
Special to the Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Erica Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
VIVIAN AND CEASEAR ‘GUS’ WALKER SR.
Married: August 24, 1973
Met: Vivian and Gus were introduced by a mutual friend, Cynthia Stanley, who thought Gus would be a perfect companion for Vivian. “It was sort of a blind date,” Vivian said. “We were complete strangers.”
When they first met at Vivian’s house “she came out and she was dressed to kill,” Gus recalled. “I looked at her and I thought ‘wow, eye-candy’.” Vivian thought the opposite about him. “I wasn’t sure if he was what I was interested in. At the age of 18-19, you have these ideals . . . but he didn’t fit the package,” Vivian said. “Cynthia had built him all up, but he was a little different from what I was expecting, and so I was thinking, ‘do I really want to go through this?’”
After seeing what Vivian was wearing, Gus, then 21, went home and changed clothes. “I had dressed for an introduction, and she had gone all out, so we went back to my house for me to change and then we rode around the city for a bit,” he said.
First date: Vivian and Gus had their first date the weekend following their introduction. The pair went to the former Empire Theater in downtown Birmingham to see a movie and Vivian recalls not being impressed by the film.
“All you had back then was radio, and they hyped it up, but it wasn’t that great,” she said, “I got him to take me to see it and he was really nice about it… Afterward, we went to dinner at Burger King.”
“I enjoyed the fellowship,” Gus said, “I wasn’t too much into the movie, but she was looking good, she was always decked out.”
The Turn: Although Vivian did not start off enchanted with Gus, she remembers having a conversation with her mother upon returning home from the date.
“When I got home she said that he seemed like a really nice boy — because she had a chance to talk with him while I got ready — and I know she could tell I wasn’t really too excited, but she said ‘I like him’ so that made me pay attention and give him a chance because my mother had a good eye for character,” Vivian said. “So I started listening to his conversation more, he was really kind…he’s a really thoughtful person, he had a lot of integrity, even as a young man…, and so it began to change my heart for him.”
The proposal: In the spring of 1973, Gus proposed.
“I had been thinking about proposing since Christmas [of the previous year] and I had talked it over with my parents and told them what I was thinking about doing. They thought she was a wonderful girl, they were crazy about her. My dad encouraged me to go head on and do it because I was in the [financial] position to do it,” Gus said. “When I did ask her we were in a parking lot in my automobile, and I was holding her hand and looking in her eyes, and I asked her would she be my bride. She started smiling and crying, and we just went from there,” he said.
Vivian recalls the conversation details leading up to his popping the question that night.
“He wanted to marry and stay together forever, he didn’t want a divorce, ever. He was very specific in what he was looking for and told me that if I would agree to the expectations, he would like for me to be his wife. And I did,” she said. “I was very excited, I had fallen in love with him. . . . His heart and personality had totally overwhelmed me…,”
The wedding: “A very small, private wedding ceremony in Brighton, at my [then] Pastor’s home (Reverend Emanuel Jackson),” Vivian said. “We got married with our [immediate] family. I think his sister came, his grandparents, my mom and grandmother, and my brothers and sisters…, “After we got married we drove back to my family’s house to get my things and say our goodbyes. Then we went back to our house and spent the night and got up the next morning and went to Atlanta for the weekend. The next day was my birthday. I got my husband for my birthday,” she said.
Words of wisdom: In August, the Walkers will celebrate 45 years of marriage and they said that true friendship and being married to someone that truly loves you for who you are is what makes lasting relationships.
“When he came along, he would always say that he loved me for me… He’s a very giving, loving provider–I had my first house built from the ground at 21-years old– but we were friends first and then lovers, and that really sealed the deal for me,” Vivian said.
Communication is paramount to a successful marriage, Vivian said. “We love to talk to each other, we’ve gone to marriage seminars to learn to better communicate. We grew in our relationship with God and that bonded us closer, but we really kept to the agreements we made to one another when we decided to get married. He gave me his list, and I gave him mine– I don’t want any other children that look like you outside this house– he’s kept his agreement, I’ve kept mine [to stay at home and care for the family].”
Being serious about your marriage and not allowing anything or anyone to be put before your mate is key, said Gus. “Considering her in all my ways and letting God direct my path has really worked throughout the years, and gaining wisdom from the word of God,” he said. “I’ve worked hard at wanting to be together and have a lasting relationship with her, we still date on the weekends, we still do our special little thing on our anniversaries, and we go to our special spot. She’s my friend and my wife, and the love of my life.”
Happily ever after: Gus, 68 is a Bessemer native, a graduate of the former Abrams High School grad in Bessemer, and retired transportation specialist. Vivian, 64, a North Johns, Alabama native, went to Oak Grove High School (near Bessemer), and works as a financial Crimes Specialist in the banking industry. She has a life group that she has developed for married women called “Passion.”
“I began to want to share with women on how to stay married, how to be exciting and the spice in the relationship…how to do more than grow old and pay bills together.”
The pair have two children, daughter Latresca Walker Smith, 43, an educator and the mother of daughter, Jala, 20, a senior at Alabama State University and son Willie, 4. Their son, Ceasear Walker Jr., 37, is an engineer and married to Andrea.